Thursday, June 21, 2007


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 21, 2007

In his autobiography Between Worlds: The Making of an American Life, Gov. Bill Richardson wrote that baseball was “the ruling passion of my young life.”
Reminiscing about coming to the U.S. from Mexico to attend a private boarding school in Concord, Mass., Richardson’s book recalls how his baseball skills helped him overcome his feelings of being from a different country. “I still felt like an outsider. But as it had been in Mexico, baseball rescued me,” Richardson wrote.

I thought about this earlier this week when the state Republican Party released its satirical 2007 Bill Richardson baseball card, which cleverly pokes fun at some of the governor’s position changes.

Seeing the double photo of Richardson (one in a Yankees cap, one in a Red Sox cap), I thought about this cruel irony:

While baseball was Richardson’s salvation as a youth, the national pastime has become a common thread in many of the controversies that have haunted his campaign for president.

First there was the draft/no-draft story. Richardson for years said he’d been drafted by the old Kansas City Athletics in the 1960s. He told me that in a 2002 interview. However, last year, a sports writer for the Albuquerque Journal checked it out and debunked the story.

Then there was his recent statement on Meet the Press that he’s a fan of both the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees — teams that constitute probably the fiercest rivalry in modern Major League baseball. This caused a huge Internet buzz on both political and sports blogs. Fans of both teams were in a state of disbelief.

More recently was the profile of Richardson in The New Republic. Writer Ryan Lizza mainly focused on Richardson’s shifting positions on foreign policy issues. However, the part of the piece that received the most attention was the part describing Richardson at — yes — a baseball game in Iowa.

“As we get up from our seats to visit the play-by-play announcer’s booth, Richardson does something I’ve never seen any politician do,” Lizza wrote. “There are two women sitting in front of us. They are both young and attractive, probably in their twenties. The governor rotates his large frame sideways and shimmies out of his row. The two women smile up at him. As he passes, Richardson reaches down and places his fingertips on the head of one of the women, tickling her scalp as he opens and closes his hand. Then, as he reaches for the next scalp, his hand suddenly aborts its mission, as if the governor realizes this wasn’t such a good idea after all.”
At least he didn’t say he was a fan of both the Albuquerque Isotopes and the Iowa Cubs.

It’s got to eat at Richardson to think that a game that once brought him acceptance and praise now is associated with some of the statements and incidents that appear to be holding him back from the major leagues of politics.

With all due respect: At a candidate forum in February in Carson City, Nev., Richardson made headlines by saying he and the other Democratic presidential candidates should sign a pledge not to attack one another.

However, earlier this week at a Washington, D.C., speech, Richardson was on the offensive, naming names in distinguishing his position on withdrawing troops from Iraq.

“With all due respect to my outstanding Democratic colleagues — U.S. Sens. (Hillary) Clinton, (Barack) Obama, (Christopher) Dodd and (Joseph) Biden — they all voted for timeline legislation that had loopholes,” he said at the Take Back America conference. “Those loopholes allow this president, or any president, to leave an undetermined number of troops in Iraq indefinitely. ... Clearly, my Democratic colleagues in this campaign think it’s responsible to have an ongoing military role in Iraq. They voted not once but twice to leave troops behind.” (See Youtube clip below)

It’s not really an attack, though. He did say “with all due respect” and call them “outstanding.”

However, Lizza — the same writer at that Iowa ballgame — pointed out in The New Republic political blog, The Plank, that one of those pieces of legislation was the Feingold-Reid amendment, which would have cut off funds for the war next March and which Richardson initially supported.

In a later blog post, Lizza quotes a rebuttal from Richardson spokesman Pahl Shipley, saying Richardson only “conditionally” supported the amendment, without exceptions in the amendment for training Iraqi soldiers and other limited purposes.

Richardson has a new anti-war Web site called No Troops Left Behind.

His Take Back America speech is below:

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